Tel Aviv Diary August 30, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 30, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 30, 2008

Oy - I made a new page and then forgot to write on it. That in itself says something. A little overload around here.

Every time we begin a negotiation the for exchange of Gilad Shalit, I can't help but think of the significance of the equation. Hamas, for example, wants 1000 prisoners (people who were convicted of some crime in Israel) for 1 hostage (someone they kidnapped in order to extort). Does this indicate that one of us is worth one thousand of them? Is it like Samuel Johnson's reply to Dr, Adams who was surprised that Johnson was going to finish the dictionary of the english language together with two assistants in three years? Adams pointed out that it had taken the French Academy's forty members forty years to compile the French dictionary. Johnson was said to have replied: "Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman."

August 31, 2008

As the weather begins to cool down (probably only temporarily) it becomes possible to walk around the city without fainting. I was even going around today wondering how I made it through all those million errands Ezi's treatment demands in that August heat. The ideal in August is not to go out before sundown. Or, as the Germans used to say, "In July and August/Only if you must" It sounds better in German.

One of our delights this week is reading an old book of Dahn Ben Amotz I found in Landsberger Books last week. "How To Do What" it is called, and I wish I could translate some of the sketches of every day life and slang. His art of slang worked so well in the years he wrote because slang was so new to Israel, so new and so vital.

Are you running tonight, I ask one of my Tel Aviv friends. "Running." he answers. "Right." Tonight is the big run in the sitting and the only person I know who is running is in his seventies.

September 1, 2008

To answer the big question asked today, Landsberger Books is on 116 Ben Yehuda street and the number is- 972-3-5271395. Yuval, a really good poet whose grandmother set up the shop in 1930, runs the place now and since he studied with me and the philosophy department he has a lot of books in those areas (and history). The shop used to be a center for all the Yekkes in the neighborhood, those German-Jews who arrived in the laste-twenties, early thirties, but never really were integrated into Israeli society. Remember them? They spoke only German, and tried to live the way they lived in Berlin. They were learned and cultured and civilized and straight as an arrow. When the Yekke wife of one of our relatives discovered that her husband had a mistress, she become close friends with her. The two women took care of each other long after our relative passed away.

The Yekkes have pretty much passed away too,

September 2, 2008

Ramadan was felt in the hospital today. There were simply fewer women in traditional Arab dress. I took a picture of one woman waiting almost alone in the corridor of hematology, but that, along with others, will have to wait for some computer adjustments - I'm redoing my study in anticipation of the promised new computer from Dell, and have disconnected most of the wires.

A bit late, but Ramadan Mubarak. I've been trying to see some of the Ramadan series on TV but haven't been able to find them.

September 3, 2008

I think news should be censored. The effect of commercial news on the world, on human behavior, is as powerful and deleterious as it is democratic and positive. The obsession Israeli news has had in the past weeks with the disappearance of four year old Rose, and the fact that she was killed by her grandfather and mother, is the most obvious, because it has been followed by two other cases of four year olds killed by their mothers. It isn't a new phenomenon or a local phenomenon. Remember Mary Hamilton who answers the queen's question of what she did with her illegitimate infant with "I put him in/a tiny boat/and cast him out to sea/ that he might sink/or he might swim/but he'd never come back to me." Remember Elinor Wylie's poem about infanticide. There are simply countless examples of mother's killing her children. But suddenly we have 3 all at once. So it's not only the news that's to blame. "Mary Hamilton" of course killed her son because of political and social situation (sexual harassment on the part of the king and political and judicial pressure on the part of the queen) but these mothers too have been pressured - not being an integral part of a society, influenced by the models of both ideal children and ideal motherhood...

Long long ago I had a poem that was supposed to be published in Hebrew (I think it was in Achshav), and it was imperative that the diacritical marks be added electronically and at once. There is only one person who can do this for you, I was told, and that is Yair Hurwitz. I came to his home while he performed this miracle for me, for nothing, for love of poetry. A sweet and kind man, he confided in me that people were beginning to love his 'poesie,' but after he died - at the early age of 47 - I thought he was being forgotten. But now his collected poems have just come out, twenty years after his death. and I hope the sweetness of his language and the beauty of his verse becomes recognized.

Monday night: in the Third Ear studio on King George Street, Panic is performing. Save that night.

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